Ex-Customs intel chief seeks DOJ dismissal of drug raps
(Updated, 1:29 p.m.) Former Customs intelligence officer Neil Estrella on Tuesday said he would seek the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s dismissal of the string of cases filed against him by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in relation to the smuggling of the P6.4-billion illegal drugs from China.
In a press conference in Manila, Estrella vehemently denied the PDEA’s accusations that he and other officials of the Bureau of Customs conspired to let the drug shipment slip past the Customs’ express lane in May 2017.
The PDEA accused Estrella, Customs chief Nicanor Faeldon, and 10 others of conspiracy to import the illegal drugs and protecting drug traffickers, in violation of the Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
The agency also accused the BOC officials of obstruction of justice for “harboring, concealing or facilitating the escape” of those behind the 605-kilo shipment, including Richard Chen, the owner of Hongfei Philippines, the supposed importer of the shipment.
However, Estrella disputed the accusations, maintaining that his only fault was to check whether the imported cylinders indeed contained drugs.
“To confirm whether there is drugs doon sa cylinder, ‘yun ang kinukwestiyon. Mali ba ako do’n? Ang sagot ko hindi, ang sabi ng iba tama, ‘yun ang pag-usapan natin. Pero ‘yung akusahan niyo kami na kasama kami na nag-import ng drugs, hindi po makatarungan ‘yon,” he said.
“Hindi po katanggap-tanggap sa sambayanang Pilipino. Wala hong Pilipino na maniniwala po sa inyo, kayo lang siguro,” he added.
The former Customs official also debunked PDEA’s claims that there was no coordination between the BOC and the PDEA as he had secured a Certificate of Coordination signed by PDEA Director General Isidro Lapeña.
“So sino nagsabing walang coordination? Eto po ang certificate of coordination,” he said as he showed the document to the press.
Estrella said not a single gram of illegal drugs were left to BOC’s custody, and the suspects, including Chen, were turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation on that evening of that operation for further investigation, interrogation, and possible arrest.
He said that Chen cooperated with the authorities, attended all the Senate hearings, and even stayed at the chamber’s premises after being cited for contempt.
“So ibig sabihin po, wala kaming kasalanan na cinoddle at tumakas si Mr. Richard Chen. Wala pong nakatakas na suspects, nandito po lahat at willing mag-imbestiga.
Estrella, a retired Marines colonel, agreed there was a possibility that there was demolition job against him and other Customs officials but refused to speculate if those in the PDEA were behind it.
“Galit ako sa ispekulasyon eh, so I don’t want also to speculate. Palagay ko kayo na po mag-deduce don sa punto na ‘yon,” he said. /idl
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